I like good news on a Friday.
The New York Times reported that The House approved $50 million in funds for the National Endowment for the Arts on Wednesday as part of its economic stimulus bill. The plan was passed by a vote of 244 to 188 and is expected to reach President Obama's desk by mid-February. The sum was not included in the Senate's version.
Robert Lynch, president and chief exec of Americans for the Art stated,“We hope Congress can come to a sensible consensus as the bill is prepared for its final vote,” “The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities, and it is fiscally sound policy to invest in our nation’s arts infrastructure.”
I hate to write about the "E" word (economy), mostly because this blog is reflective of how the Biggs feels about art: it's for everyone, whichever way you like it, and it's fun (ie, free museum days, white paper headdresses and buying cookies to help girl scout troops). But I'll always welcome encouragement from key people in our industry. Budget planning for FY09-10 is creeping up on my calendar, and a little rah rah is needed.
So anyways, there was a great article in the Wall Street Journal on Michael Conforti, the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). It was actually written by one of my favorite art bloggers, Lee Rosenbaum of CultureGrrl. Lee breezed through some of the battles art museums in the U.S. are up against, some of them that would make a museum staff member want to crawl under an antique chair and say "a donor can wake me up when the recession's over." LA, Detroit and New York museums are reducing programs, exhibitions and staffing. The Getty is on a job freeze. Even the LA Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the National Academy Museum in New York were on the verge of going bust until getting bailed. Museums are even breaking the "cardinal rule" (as put by lee), and selling artwork for cash. Artwork has only been sold for buying other art in the past.
But Mr. Conforti puts us at ease by saying that this financially difficult period is, "a great time for art museums." They are, he said, "bellwethers for people at moments like this. We saw this happen after 9/11. If we are doing our jobs well, we're the places that people can turn to in times of instability. The reality is that the Metropolitan Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Phoenix Art Museum are not going away."
I think he's right, we're not going anywhere. If anything we'll prove to be what we are here for more than ever before, a community resource.